EB-5 will thrive under Trump, experts say

Proponents of the program are confident it will be renewed, though changes are expected
By Cathaleen Chen | November 21, 2016 08:30AM

The Real Deal's EB-5 and U.S. Immigration panel

From left: Nicholas Mastroianni, Scott Alper, Connor Chen, Charles Gargano, Former New York Gov. George Pataki, Phoebe Yuan, Jianlen and Hiten Samtani

The legislative fate of EB-5 may still be up in the air, but champions of the controversial visa program are not worried — they say they have a powerful friend on their side.

EB-5 will likely to continue to thrive under President-elect Donald Trump, EB-5 experts said at a panel hosted by The Real Deal in Shanghai Friday, despite his adversarial rhetoric toward immigrants.

“His strong stance [is] against illegal immigration,” former New York Gov. George Pataki said. “And EB-5 is a legal immigration program. He understands the need for capital, the need for investment.”

Charles Gargano, the executive director of the U.S. Immigration Fund and a former U.S. ambassador, is also optimistic.

“Under President-elect Trump, a developer himself, he will magnify the need for a program like this,” he said.

Trump certainly isn’t a stranger to the program. His son-in-law Jared Kushner’s Trump-branded rental tower in Jersey City took in $50 million in EB-5 funds. U.S. Immigration Fund, in fact, was tapped for the 50-story, 447-unit project.

Last month, Congress granted a temporary extension ensuring that EB-5 would operate until at least early December. Meanwhile, lawmakers are mulling over a proposal to reform the program. They’re considering changes that include a raise in the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $800,000 and tougher qualifications for project sites.

“It shouldn’t be an issue, but it is going to change,” U.S. Immigration Fund CEO Nicholas Mastroianni said. “I don’t see [the increased minimum amount] as a deterrent.”

Critics of the program lament the fact that it commodifies American citizenship, provides opportunities for fraud and disproportionately benefits wealthy areas. Proponents, however, argue that such setbacks are far outweighed by its benefits.

“People can say it’s a backdoor ploy for citizenship,” Pataki said. “There’s always going to be criticism but the need for this is only going to be greater because banks [today] are taking a step back.”

Former New York Gov. George Pataki making his keynote address

Former New York Gov. George Pataki making his keynote address

From the New York website: For Chinese investors themselves, EB-5 will remain a popular immigration option. It could very well grow to new heights under a government that’s fully controlled by Republicans, panelists said.

Trump may not be against legal immigration, but work visa programs like EB-2 and EB-3 are getting tougher and and tougher to attain, according to Yuan Shaozhong of QWOS, a Shanghai-based immigration agent.

“EB-5 is the only feasible option for a lot of Chinese immigrants right now,” she said.